A Song for ×× has a very simple function: to collect Ayu’s first singles into her debut album. In this it succeeds admirably. The album tracks go well with her singles, and the album as a whole flows well. However, there is little past that to say about it. With a few notable exceptions, the singles are the only songs to survive past this era of Ayu’s music; very few of the other album tracks are still performed in her concerts.
There is nothing fundamentally wrong with A Song for ××, other than the fact that it was released so early in Ayu’s career. It’s a good reflection of that period in her life and her career; it’s before Ayu really became comfortable as an artist and before she found enormous success. Unlike her later works, which have a much more solid basis in the variety of songs and and the skill that comes with being an established musician, A Song for ×× is a more raw, unfiltered album. It doesn’t compare to albums like I am... or Secret in production value, but it’s not meant to, and such a comparison can only be made in hindsight.
It’s hard for me to look at — much less listen to — A Song for ×× without thinking about her later work. It’s certainly the Ayu album I listen to the least, but it’s not that I dislike it. It’s really just that she’s improved so much in the years since, and this album can’t really hold a candle to her other albums. When I listen to A Song for ×× I can hear the Ayu I fell in love with. She’s there, no question about it. She just hasn’t gotten there yet.
I do think the lyrics of this album are some of her best. Ayu’s talents for writing were of course obvious from the start, but it’s remarkable to look at the lyrics of this album as a whole and see the picture it paints. It’s clear that Ayu was not in a good state at that time in her life. While much of the album is upbeat, the lyrics are in stark contrast, as if daring the listener to take notice. It’s safe to say people did.